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GOD > Pathway to GOD > Introduction
Gandhiji's Spiritual Pilgrimage
Gandhiji was essentially a man of religion. His eventful life was really a spiritual pilgrimage. The supreme ideal which he tried to pursue, throughout his life, was God-realization. "I want to see God face to face," he used to say very often. He emphatically declares:
"What I want to achieve — what I have been striving and pining to achieve these thirty years — is Self-realization, to see God face to face, to attain Moksha. I live and move and have my being in pursuit of this goal. All that I do by way of speaking and writing, are directed to this same end."
Though Gandhiji started his life with disbelief in God and prayer and continued to maintain the same attitude for a long time, he did feel a void in his life at a later stage, which led him to read the real meaning of Creation. Thereafter he could write with the greatest assurance: "I am surer of His existence than of the fact that you and I are sitting in this room." He felt very miserable to find that he was still far away from God, even though he was conscious that God governed every breath of his life. However, the feeling that he was journeying Godward gave him some solace for he occasionally felt the warmth of the sunshine of His presence.
The Sadhana which Gandhiji practised and preached for attaining this ideal has three aspects: (i) Intellectual, (ii) Moral and (iii) Spiritual.
(i) The Intellectual aspect consists in the clear conception regarding the nature of God, Soul and the World, their relation with one another and the primary duty of man. Gandhiji soon realized the futility and impossibility of reasoning out the existence of God. "God exists," says he, "because we exist. Really, we are not; He alone is. If we will be, we must eternally sing His praise and do His will." This is Gandhiji's first criterion to prove God's existence. The direct testimony of saints who have actually seen God, is his second criterion.
Like all other saints Gandhiji maintained that God is one without a second. He has innumerable names, but he chose to call Him "Truth". Gandhiji's Absolute Truth has a very wide connotation. It not only connotes Eternal Existence, both in time and space, but it also connotes Eternal Knowledge, Power, and Bliss. Gandhiji's Truth is Light, Life, Goodness and Law. It is a mysterious Power that holds together, creates, dissolves and recreates. Infinite is Its love and boundless Its compassion. Such is the Truth he worshipped with perfect devotion.
"Our soul is immortal," says Gandhiji. It is the eternal spark of the Divine Fire. "We may not be God," he avers, "but we are of God, even as a little drop of water is the ocean. Imagine it torn away from the ocean and flung millions of miles away. It becomes helpless, and cannot feel the might and majesty of the ocean. But if someone could point out to it that it is the ocean (and teach it to realize it), its faith would revive, it would dance with joy and the whole might and majesty of the ocean would be reflected in it."
"Our earthly existence is," according to Gandhiji, "so fickle that it can be wiped out in the twinkling of an eye." He also tells us that death is as necessary for man's growth as life itself. Death is inevitable. It is a welcome friend, a deliverer. It is a mere change when we work for God. Hence it is the primary duty of every man, according to Gandhiji, to carefully introspect, realize his nature, fight with the inner foes, develop his Godward faculties to perfection and enjoy the vision and bliss of God.
(ii) The Moral aspect of Gandhiji's Sadhana concerns the fight with the inner foes, viz. vices and the acquisition of some cardinal virtues. In fact, our attempt at the cultivation of virtues, would automatically bring about the elimination of vices. The main virtues which Gandhiji tried to develop are truth, love, and self-restraint. These and selfless service along with devotion to God which crowns them all, are the basic virtues which he wants all to cultivate. Gandhiji's truth as a virtue is nothing but the correspondence between thought, word and deed. Prompting of the inner voice or conscience is the true thought. Its accurate expression in speech and action will invest the words and deeds with the sanctity of truth. Gandhiji wants us to realize such truth.
"True love," says Gandhiji, "is boundless like the ocean and swelling within one, spreads itself out and envelops the whole world." Such is the unselfish love which Gandhiji cultivated. "Love is life," he declares, "and hatred is death. The law of love, call it attraction, affinity, cohesion, if you like, governs the world. Love is the reverse of the coin of which the obverse is truth. Truth ever triumphs over untruth; love conquers hatred. Hatred always tries to kill but love never dies." Non-violence is another name which Gandhiji has given to such a pure love. His love and non-violence are one and the same. They depict the positive and negative aspects of the same attitude of mind. Pure unselfish love is perfectly nonviolent, and perfect non-violence is full of pure love. Thus they are identical.
Self-restraint is the third cardinal virtue which Gandhiji attempted to cultivate and advocate. If truth supports and love unites, Self-restraint gives the necessary strength to the Sadhaka and enables him to walk with courage and confidence on the Pathway to God. Self-restraint is the source of all strength, the spring of all power. It is the mother of so many virtues like non-stealing, celebacy, non-taste etc. Voluntary restraint is the privilege of man. Control of palate is the source of perfect health and strength. It will enable him to control all other senses with ease. And he who can conquer the senses can conquer the whole world. Complete control of thought, word and deed alike, will bring a power of the highest potency and purity of the highest type, so very necessary for receiving the grace of the Lord.
Selfless service is the last aspect of his moral Sadhana. "The only way to find God," he says, "is to see Him in His creation, and be one with it." "I am striving for the Kingdom of Heaven, which is spiritual deliverance. For me the road to salvation lies through incessant toil in the service of my country and there through of humanity." Gandhiji tried to reduce himself to a cipher, identify himself with everything that lives and live at peace with friend and foe alike. Thus did he hope to attain salvation through selfless service. He strongly maintained that loving service, offered in a spirit of humility, will bring about proper self-purification, which in the fullness of time, will lead to God-realization.
(iii) The Spiritual aspect of the Sadhana practised and preached by Gandhiji consisted of a living faith in God, heart-felt prayer, meditation on Ramanama, and self-surrender. Gandhiji highly extols "living immovable faith". "Intellect," he says, "takes us along the battle of life to a certain extent, but at critical moments, it fails us. Faith transcends reason. It is when the horizon is the darkest, and human reason is beaten down to the ground, that faith shines the brightest and comes to our rescue." "Faith is not a delicate flower that withers under the slightest stormy weather. It moves mountains and jumps across the ocean. That faith is nothing but the wide-awake consciousness of God within. He who has achieved that faith wants nothing. Bodily diseased, he is spiritually healthy; physically poor, he rolls in spiritual riches."
Prayer is the next spiritual Sadhana performed by Gandhiji. He himself was essentially a man of faith and prayer. "Prayer is really," he tells us, "complete meditation and melting into the higher Self-God." "He who hungers for the awakening of the Divine in him, must fall back upon prayer." Real prayer, according to him, prefers heart without words, to words without heart. It needs no speech. It must spring from the heart. Prayer is a call to humility — a call to self-purification, to inward search and peace. "I believe," declares Gandhiji, "that prayer is the very soul and essence of religion and therefore, it must be the very core of the life of man." Along with prayer, Gandhiji tried to enthrone Ramanama in his heart and took God's name with every breath. At the same time he developed the attitude of self- surrender to the Lord. "I have no strength," he says "save what God has given me. I know that I can do nothing, God can do everything. My greatest weapon is mute prayer." "God demands nothing less than complete self-surrender as the price for the only real freedom that is worth having. And when a man thus loses himself, he immediately finds himself in the service of all that lives. It becomes his delight and recreation. He is a new man, never weary of spending himself in the service of God's Creation."
Now let us try to understand Gandhiji's conception of God-realization as well as his actual achievement. Says he, "I hold that complete realization of God is impossible in this embodied life. Nor is it necessary. A living immovable faith is all that is required for reaching the full spiritual height attainable by human being." To him, God-realization is a supersensuous experience, consisting in the feeling of His constant presence in the heart. However, he appears to have enjoyed other spiritual experiences as well. Shri Gurudeva Dr. Ranade has told us that Gandhiji was more an audile than a photist 6r a morphist. Gandhiji speaks about the Inner Voice which may be likened to the Anahata sound heard by the mystics. Though small in the beginning, it gradually appears to have assumed greater and greater sonorousness and power. "The Divine Music," he tells us, "is incessantly going on within ourselves. But our loud senses drown the delicate music, which is unlike and infinitely superior to anything we can hear with our senses." Along with this "Still Small Voice" Gandhiji speaks about "the Pillar of Fire" and the "Inner Light". "When this Light corresponds, with the promptings of the Inner Voice," he says, "then that spark has the flash of inspiration." He also speaks about the Lustre of Truth which is "million- times more brilliant than that of the sun." Gandhiji appears to have received messages and heard actual words emerging from the Inner Voice—words from God. About the authenticity of these messages Gandhiji declares: "I can say this that not the unanimous verdict of the whole world against me could shake me from the belief that what I heard was the true Voice of God. . . . For the Voice was more real than my existence."